Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the "Harry Potter" series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

Pros:

I admire authors who can build complex and enchanting worlds that make us readers want to visit. J. K. Rowling does a fantastic job creating such a world. She conjures up an entire "wizarding" culture filled with magical creatures, curious manners of speech, and customs that do not resemble any of our own. As I was reading the book, the alternate reality she created captured me so much that I wished I could explore it myself. While many authors only come up with elements of setting necessary to make the plot flow, Rowling has clearly spent a lot of time designing each characteristic in great detail. I can only imagine that she has piles of unreleased notes on the world. This depth of knowledge is palpable throughout the course of the book, making it very engaging.


Furthermore, the book was surprisingly funny. I expected charming, but not witty. Still, I found myself chuckling out loud to myself while reading certain parts of the book, especially lines by Albus Dumbledore. Typically fans remember him as a wise and benevolent headmaster, and although this is true, he also says some genuinely bizarre but quite funny things, for example:

"Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"
There are many other funny instances throughout the book as well.

I also greatly admired the character of Harry Potter in this first book of the series. No matter what, he always sticks up for his friends and continually does the right thing despite temptations not to. Now, this does not mean in any way that he is perfect and thus a boring and clich├ęd character. He still has his flaws and does not have an easy life, but when push comes to shove, he will not compromise his morals in order to gain approval or better his standing in the community.

Cons:

Unfortunately, this book was not without its flaws. I found the writing style often very juvenile. This is not necessarily bad since Harry Potter himself is eleven years old in the story and the book is not necessarily written for adults. However, I first read this book at the age of thirteen, not much older than Harry Potter, and even then I felt the writing style was too simplistic. Words tend toward the shorter side and descriptions are usually cursory. This meant that, though I did love the world Rowling created, I often did not get as vivid a depiction of it as I wanted.

In addition, the pacing of the book felt off at times. Harry does not get to Hogwarts until after approximately a hundred pages. Since the book is only three hundred pages long, this meant a third of the book was devoted to exposition material. Also, the climax at the very end of the book, though quite a plot twist, felt rushed, meaning that I finished the book feeling unsatisfied and as if there was something missing.

Overall though, I did enjoy the book as a pleasant and creative diversion.

Now I'm going to do a breakdown of each element of the book, judging it on different criteria. I'll rate each element on a scale of 1-5, 1 being bad, and 5 being amazing.

Plot: 4

Complexity: 4
Creativity: 4
Believability: 4
Surprise: 4

Characters: 4

Depth: 4
Personality: 5
Believability: 4

Writing Style: 3

Description: 2
Tension: 4
Vocabulary: 2

Overall Score: 4

Happy Reading!

Sarah


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